Netflix to Stream on the Wii — But Only in SD

Netflix subscribers, after months of rumors, will soon be able to view its “Watch Instantly” streaming service on the Wii gaming console, the NY Times is reporting. But while the deal will open up the service to a whole new group of potential subscribers, there are limitations that could hamper adoption among Wii owners.

For one thing, those hoping for the same high-quality video that they get on the Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 or any other connected device should curb their enthusiasm, since the Wii will only support standard-definition streaming. As we reported earlier this week, the Wii simply doesn’t have the horsepower to stream HD video. The BBC, which introduced its iPlayer on the gaming console late last year, is only able to stream video on the Wii at around 700 kbps, compared to the 1.5 Mbps or 3.2 Mbps that can be found on a typical broadband PC connections.

And the service won’t be built into the gaming system. Unlike the Xbox 360 implementation, in which Netflix is included on the gaming console as part of its Xbox Live subscription service, getting Netflix on the Wii will require a special disc to run. These discs will be free and will be shipped from various Netflix shipping locations as requested by Wii owners. First shipments of the Wii discs are expected in the spring.

Yet despite the limitations, getting on the Wii is a big win for Netflix, particularly as it nudges subscribers to use its streaming VOD service. There have been more than 26 million Wii gaming consoles sold in the U.S., which could help drive Wii owners to sign up for Netflix subscriptions. Netflix currently has about 11 million subscribers to its service, with unlimited streaming and DVD rental plans starting at $9 a month.

The streaming service is already available on a number of devices, including the Roku Player; Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 gaming consoles; Blu-ray players from Insignia, LG, Samsung and Sony; Internet-connected TVs from Insignia, LG, Samsung, Sony and VIZIO; and TiVo DVRs. In addition, Netflix announced deals with even more consumer electronics manufacturers at CES last week, and expects to be on more than 100 devices by the end of the year.

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